We can so easily become caught up in demands of the moment that we lose perspective on the bigger picture of our lives, our souls, our relationships. What is our life about? What do we hope to realize during our years on this earth? Where do our relationships fit into that picture? To what extent are they “figure” and to what extend are they “ground”? Nearly a hundred years ago, the Danish psychologist Edgar Rubin illustrated the reversibility between the two in the classic image of vases or profiles, depending upon one’s point of view.
Our intimate relationships pose the same challenge: can we see them close up, with the daily chores, delights, challenges and chatter, as well as from an alternate perspective, focusing on the other view, how they fit into the larger scheme of our life. Neither is “right” or “wrong”; each has a place and can be welcome in directing the relationship. But sometimes we need to remember the Big Picture.
What perspectives warrant attention?
- Why were you drawn to each other initially? Has anything changed in those qualities that attracted you? Or in their importance to you now?
- What threatens your relationship? What are the most problematic sources of conflict between you? How have you each tried to address those conflicts?
- Details versus Big Picture. Otherwise known as the forest versus the trees, people can view their relationship through either lens. To what extent do the moments in daily life dominate the texture of your love relationship and to what extent does an overriding impression determine how you evaluate it and the directions it takes?
- Space versus Content. In the vase/faces and many other figure/ground reversals, the emphasis can be on that which is added, such as lines or shading, or on that which is left untouched, leaving space. In what ways do you share attitudes towards space in your lives? Physical space? Emotional closeness desired? Geographic distance? Time spent together, in solitude, with others? How comfortable are you with quiet, a form of space?
How can perspective be addressed?
- Practice zooming in and out on your relationship issues. This skill takes discipline to develop but can be a huge help in understanding how the pieces and the whole fit together. Sometimes the details in the remembered images of an evening together can be enlisted to bring back the feelings that are at the core of your bond.
- Similarly, sometimes identifying a big-picture issue like loneliness or deprivation or gratitude or generosity can lead you to see the moments that led to an impression that you allowed to define the experience you were having. Images of moments with negative outcomes can be decreased or transformed; those that amplify positive ones can be repeated.
Why does shifting perspectives show love?
- Sometimes one person is thinking about the transmission of values to a new generation while the other is concerned with making dinner. Both can be expressions of love. Shifting perspectives, recognizing the focus of the other, guarantees that they can be appreciated as such. Honest appreciation strengthens bonds.
- It demonstrates flexibility and a willingness to consider alternatives, creative options. Loving requires flexibility. Because two people are not the same, nor does each of them remain the same, they need to appreciate their differences, address conflicts, and solve problems creatively.
When you think of the big picture of your life, what is the role of your love relationship? What would your partner say? How does the small picture — daily events, interactions, structure — affect that big picture? How would your partner answer these questions?
Copyright 2017 Roni Beth Tower
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